20 March 2014 Jill
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have to stop Leslie from ResigningPriceless
Cold slightly saw Jill pottereed
Scrabbletoday Marywins and gets under400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.
Oswald Morris, who has died aged 98, was an Oscar-winning British cinematographer whose career bridged the cinematic shift from the mood-infused chiaroscuro of the 1940s silver screen to the lush celluloid palette of the Technicolor productions of the latter half of the 20th century.
Morris, along with Freddie Young, Jack Cardiff and Christopher Challis, was of the generation of cinematographers who learnt their trade as cinema developed around them. He filmed more than 50 features, including perennial favourites such as John Huston’s early take on Moulin Rouge (1952), the country house puzzler Sleuth (1972) and the 1974 James Bond outing The Man with the Golden Gun. In the years before standardised film industry practices and technical advances, such as Steadicams and digital enhancement, Morris found that lighting and shooting movies was often an exercise in logistical flexibility, ego management and technical invention.
He won his Academy Award for Fiddler on the Roof (1971), a shoot on which he slipped a silk stocking over his camera lens to gain the distinctive sepia-tinged visuals. The film was, he said, “a cameraman’s dream because it had everything a cameraman could wish for.” Filming Norman Jewison’s musical — in which Chaim Topol plays a Jewish peasant attempting to marry off three of his daughters in pre-revolutionary Russia — allowed Morris to take a cinematic journey through the seasons. “We have winter with rain, winter with dull weather, winter with snow. We have dawns, sunrises, hot summer days, cold winter days, sunsets and nights,” he said. “Now I can’t think of anything, except possibly a storm, that one couldn’t have put in this film from a photographic point of view.”
Morris would defuse actors’ demands as adeptly as he would soften the light in which they were bathed. “I would chat them up before filming started and ask if they had any hang-ups,” he explained. “You bypass the director and form a relationship with them. Sophia Loren was as nervous as a kitten when I worked with her in 1957. She said, ‘I don’t look good in profile. I have a pointed nose’. So we developed a code: I would grimace whenever she was going into profile.”
Directors could be equally tricky. He worked on eight films with the notoriously difficult John Huston. “I did use to go up and say, ‘John, we have a problem’,” remembered Morris on publication of his memoirs Huston, We Have a Problem (2006). “He would always say: ‘Well, kid,’ — he always called me kid — ‘what are you going to do about it?’ and I’d go and find a solution. We always came up with something in the end.”
Oswald Norman Morris was born on November 22 1915 in Ruislip, Middlesex, where his father ran a newsagents and encouraged his son’s interest in film (they shot amateur shorts in the garden by the outside lavatory — calling them Bogside Productions). Oswald attended Bishopshalt School, working as a projectionist in a local cinema on his holidays, before joining Wembley Studios, alongside a young Michael Powell, in the early Thirties. Moving up from clapper boy to camera assistant, he worked on American Fox Film Company productions of “quota quickies” — fast turnaround features made to meet the legal requirement on British cinemas to show a quota of British films.
During the Second World War he served as a pilot in Bomber Command, in raids over France and Germany, winning a DFC in 1943. While he was filming The Odessa File in 1974, a German “grip” asked him whether he had ever visited Hamburg. “Yes,” replied Morris, “the last time I was 20,000 feet up”. Later on in the war Morris was transferred to Transport Command and given the job of taking Field Marshall Sir Alan Brooke on a global tour, which included a stop-off in the Crimea where Brooke attended the Yalta Conference. For this he was awarded an AFC.
On being demobbed Morris joined Pinewood Studios, where he worked alongside Ronald Neame (who called him “probably the greatest cameraman in the world”) and David Lean, who employed him behind the camera on Oliver Twist (1948).
In fact, Morris had the unique privilege of twice putting Charles Dicken’s orphan in the frame. As cameraman on Lean’s adaptation he was given the task of creating a point-of-view shot of Oliver being punched in the face. “The only way I could think of to achieve this was to use a pram,” recalled Morris. “I couldn’t run with the camera as it would be too unsteady. So I climbed in, and David Lean gave me a push. The punch went right into the lens.” Two decades later he was the director of photography — responsible for the entire look of the production — on Carol Reed’s film of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! (1968).
In 1952, Morris “broke every rule in the book” while shooting Huston’s Moulin Rouge. On being interviewed for the job at the Dorchester Hotel Morris asked Huston how he envisaged the completed film would look. “I would like it to look as though Toulouse-Lautrec had directed it himself,” replied Huston. Morris shot using strong, light-scattering filters on the camera, which had never been used before. “We also filmed every set full of smoke so that the actors always stood out from the background,” he recalled. “The Technicolor people hated it.” Their tune changed, however, on the film’s positive reception. “The head of Technicolor in America wrote to Technicolor in London congratulating them on the wonderful colours in the film. No mention of me.”
In addition to his win for Fiddler on the Roof, Morris was Oscar-nominated a further two times: in 1969 for Reed’s Oliver! and in 1979 for Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz (a sequel to The Wizard of Oz). He also won Best Cinematography Baftas on three consecutive years, for the family saga The Pumpkin Eater (1965), Sydney Lumet’s anti-establishment drama The Hill (1966) and the John le Carré adaptation The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1967). He made his last film, The Dark Crystal, in 1982.
Film directors, he claimed, were a rare and varied bunch. “The top ones are a breed apart. David Lean would quiz me over every shot, while John Huston was so laid-back that for Beat the Devil he simply told me to shoot it as a ‘shaggy-dog film’ and I had no idea what he meant. But what links them is that they are always receptive to ideas. They listen to people.”
Unlike many cinematographers, however, Morris never wanted to join their ranks. “I didn’t want to have to deal with actors,” he said late in life. “If the acting is bad, blame the director. If you can’t see what’s going on, blame the cinematographer.”
Morris was appointed OBE in 1998 for services to cinematography and the film industry and made a Bafta Fellow in 1997.
Oswald Morris married first in 1939, Connie Sharp, his childhood sweetheart who died in 1963. In 1966 he married, secondly, Lillian Fox, a film script supervisor who died in 2003. He is survived by a son and two daughters of his first marriage.
Oswald Morris, born November 22 1915, died March 17 2014
Lenny Henry (Report, 18 March) is clearly right to draw attention to the lack of black and Asian people in the television industry. He is wrong, however, to suggest that “new legislation” is needed to solve this problem. There is legislation in place, but the industry must solve its own problems. The first stage is to look carefully at the reasons why, after decades, there are still too few black faces on our screens and, no doubt, even fewer in executive positions behind those screens.
Where the cause is old-fashioned unlawful race discrimination, then those at the top should act swiftly to bring the industry’s complex procedures within the law. Where there are other barriers, the television industry has available to it in the Equality Act 2010 wide scope for positive action to overcome under-representation – the main test being that the action is proportionate. Lenny Henry has given some thought to where change is needed and is putting forward his ideas to the BBC and Ofcom. The legislation is there; what is needed is a commitment to use the law boldly to bring about meaningful change. Good luck.
Chair, Discrimination Law Association
• It isn’t enough to give a slave their freedom and a colony its independence and there will not be an unqualified apology that admits reparations are due in law at least until they are settled (Legitimate reparations, Comment, 17 March). The reparations suggested by Caribbean nations are reasonable and will hardly hurt the European nations implicated in the slave trade. Many will believe them not punitive enough, insufficient reparations for the evils of slavery, colonisation and racism in our lifetimes.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
We were interested to read Joe Sandler Clarke‘s piece about the number of children strip searched by the Metropolitan police and the Met’s response to it (Met police strip search more than 4,500 children in five years, 17 March). His piece quoted a spokeswoman from the Met, who said: “Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Prisons undertook regular joint inspections of the Met’s custody suites and records, and had found the use of strip search to be ‘proportionate and appropriate’.”
We have never given the Met that general assurance in all their operations as we inspect each borough separately. We are not in a position to say that all strip searching of children and young people is necessary and proportionate across all boroughs and in some cases we have identified concerns, such as young people strip searched in Merton without an appropriate adult present.
HM chief inspector of prisons
HM inspector of constabulary
The universities attended by your Generation Y trainee journalists who control this week’s G2 (15 March) reveal the selective processes of mass higher education just as surely as Michael Gove’s view of Old Etonians’ influence on Cameron in the same issue. (Though the latter mainly reveals that many Tories have abandoned hope of winning next year’s election and merely seek to stop a Boris succession.)
Not one of the nine female 24- to 30-year-old trainees (out of 10 in total) attended a former polytechnic (though one coyly admits to “living in Oxford for three years” – at Oxford Brookes perhaps … or not?). Unlike the fabled progress from tea-boy (sic) to editor, these trainees already served extended academic apprenticeships at universities representative of the next rung below Gove’s “preposterous Etonians”. John Harris’s “Inside the A* factory” (Guardian Weekend, 15 March) shows how this selection happens in schools where literary tests indicate more or less expensively acquired cultural capital.
So I look forward to reading inter alia what these top 10 have to say about how we box our way out of the social and cultural logjam the current education system has gotten us into.
University of Greenwich
• Laura McInerney’s argument about the absurdity of claims that too few girls are studying physics is well argued (Education, 18 March). There are marked gender preferences across all subjects that merit attention. But the natural science lobby has, for a long time, succeeded in privileging their subjects in the minds and actions of government – evident in curriculum reform, teaching and research funding in universities, the appointment of science advisers in government departments (why no history advisers?) and even in their own science and technology select committees in parliament. A more even-handed approach to subjects is needed.
Visiting senior research fellow, King’s College London
So Lord Dyson has overruled the attorney general’s decision regarding publication of Prince Charles’ letters (Report, 13 March). Looks like this won’t be swept under the carpet after all.
Hove, East Sussex
• I loved those sci-fi stories about the future of the media (G2, 17 March). Of course, I read them on my Kindle edition. However I don’t think we need to worry quite yet. My recent music choices on Amazon (other, tax-paying internet businesses also available) were Piazzolla, Albeniz, Steely Dan, Chet Baker, Neneh Cherry and Beethoven. Amazon replied by saying that I might also enjoy John Denver. Actually, I am now worried.
• In France, local taxes automatically include the TV licence fee (Report, 19 March). One has to opt out of paying, which makes the process simpler. Of course, a Tory-led government could not do something sensible that the French do.
Professor Paul Fowler
• When the new pound coin was introduced 30 years ago (Report, 19 March), the then leader of the opposition, Neil Kinnock, compared it with Margaret Thatcher: thick, brassy and thinks it’s a sovereign.
• I recall asking Doncaster miners in the parish where I worked why the pound coin was called a “Scargill”, to be told that it provided a new name for the 50p coin: “‘alf-a-Scargill”.
Rev Canon Chris Oxley
• Didn’t Queen Victoria once make a birthday present of Mount Kilimanjaro to her German cousin (Letters, 18 March)?
• Gill Jewell (Letters, 19 March) is in good company. We in the West Midlands have also been ignored, to say nothing of those in the south-west. Were I paranoid, I would suspect a devious plot.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that by the end of this financial year 60% of the cost-reduction programme will have yet to reach the front line (Report, 6 February). Eighteen months ago council leaders were talking about the “graph of doom” – when repeated budget cuts would reduce local authority services to little more than bin collections, care for the elderly and looked-after children. Now even that seems optimistic. The poorest boroughs like ours in Newham – hit 10 times harder than the richest by local authority cuts – felt the brunt of the recession but are not feeling the recovery. This doesn’t feel like the predictable lag between the time when an uplift in the private sector ripples out into the public. This feels like a disconnect.
As the economy appears now to be picking up for some, but grinding others further down, it is surely time to revive the discussion about the cuts and whether those who bore the biggest burden of the recession should also benefit least from the recovery. If we were all in it together, shouldn’t we get out of it together?
Co-founder, Community Links
• The growing chasm between rich and poor is an obscenity, if not the only one. But does Simon Jenkins (Comment, 19 March) seriously expect the chancellor to tax the rich? Rather his focus is chiefly on the poor, for political and economic reasons, and his policies are resulting in the worst crisis in living standards since the 1930s. The only glimmer of hope for those who seek a fairer future is the handful of Fairness Commissions recently set up by local authorities. Of course, they face a tidal wave of government cuts that are anything but fair, however they have begun to establish a foothold for an alternative approach.
In Sheffield, for example, the council has introduced the living wage and now subjects all policies to a test of fairness; tackling health inequalities has been prioritised by commissioners, including the obscene early death rates among people with mental health problems and learning disabilities; and, to save children’s lives, 20mph speed limits are being introduced. Already there is sufficient evidence of impact on local policy priorities and public enthusiasm for greater fairness for the Labour opposition to take note. It is there that we must look if the gap between rich and poor is to be closed.
Professor Alan Walker
University of Sheffield
• As a higher-rate taxpayer – largely because of my widow’s pension, since my teacher’s pension certainly wouldn’t get me there – I fully accept my tax “burden” and would happily vote for a party who came out and made a case for higher taxes for high earners. Sadly, the only party that made a case for raising taxes so we can pay for better services was the Lib Dems. Since I live in Buckinghamshire, and am therefore to all intents and purposes disenfranchised, given the Tory majorities hereabouts, and since the Lib Dems have made themselves political outcasts, I don’t expect to get the chance to vote for such a policy any time soon.
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire
• Welfare benefit is set to be capped at £119.5bn. Suppose that sum is spent by, say, February of the tax year. Does that mean that people who depend on the capped benefits – disablement allowance, incapacity benefits et al – will be left to suffer? Is that the mark of a caring society?
Martin Amis (Report, 18 March) may still see white skin as a key attribute of being English, but I was born in London in 1950 of a Jewish mother whose family fled from the pogroms of 1880 and 1904, and a Nigerian father who served in the Merchant Navy during the war. I have considered myself English because I was born in England and know only English culture – I am not Scottish, Welsh or from Northern Ireland. It is racist according to law to treat someone like me “less favourably” because of the colour of their skin.
When I was the chair of a community group in south London in 2006, I managed, with others, to celebrate St George’s Day so that the BNP could not monopolise that day with a racist march as they had done previously. The history of England should be celebrated and it should be inclusive of all of us born in England. From John Archer, a black Englishman who became mayor of Battersea, to Henry Sylvester Williams and William Cuffay, a leading Chartist, these men and many more unnamed black men and women played a significant part in the struggles of working-class people in England. Are they to be denied their place in English history because of the colour of their skin?
Founder, Black History Month in the UK
• Martin Amis does not speak for most people in England when he says that having white skin is still an important part of being English. The majority don’t share his view. A poll by YouGov found just 22% of people in England say it’s important for someone to be white for them to be regarded as English, compared to 74% for whom it is not important. The figures are even more striking when broken down by age. Those, like Amis, aged over 60 are more than three times as likely to consider “being white” as important to Englishness than 18-24 year olds; 86% of this younger group say being white is not important to being English. Amis’s version of Englishness may still ring true for a minority, but most people – particularly the next generation of English men and women – are proud of an inclusive English identity that reflects our modern and diverse nation.
Director, British Future
• Has Martin Amis found the time to read at least a sentence or two by the late Stuart Hall? Or at the very least seen John Akomfrah’s The Stuart Hall Project (now available on DVD)? If not, perhaps he should, and then dig a little deeper in order to reflect on his (Amis’s) meaningless view that multiculturalism is “a luxury”, apparently some sort of soft altruism which cannot endure in “hard times”. Yes, Amis should definitely familiarise himself with the work and ideas of Stuart Hall, and chuck in some Foucault for good measure.
• As the European and local elections approach in May, the political agenda is becoming increasingly dominated by attempts to appeal to voters by drumming up racism and xenophobia. This vying by mainstream parties to be the most trenchant on immigration has even led the government to suppress the facts about the impact of immigration on unemployment. Leaving this discussion unchallenged is deeply dangerous. The scapegoating of immigrants for economic and social problems may be convenient but it is both false and leads to real discrimination and abuse of minority communities. For mainstream parties to get caught up in the slipstream of this destructive agenda will not raise their votes but instead plays into the hands of the more extreme exponents of this racist and xenophobic politics, whether the authoritarian, far-right variants like the BNP or the populist version of Ukip, which calls for an end to all immigration – whatever the economic and social cost – while promoting “little Englander” isolationist policies across the board.
Alongside the campaign against Bulgarian and Romanian migrants that dominated the tabloid media at the beginning of the year, hostility to Muslims also remains a constant feature. Very few voices have been raised against this dialogue of hate and prejudice. This is creating a dangerous slippage where anti-immigrant, xenophobic, anti-Traveller and racist views become normalised within the mainstream political debate. We have therefore decided to take the occasion of the annual UN Anti-racism Day to organise a counter-blast and celebrate our diversity and the contribution of all. The scapegoating of migrants and Muslims is a blight on society. We hope that everyone who agrees with us will join us in Parliament Square, London, at 11am on Saturday 22 March (www.standuptoracism.org.uk).
Diane Abbott MP, Mark Durkan MP, Peter Hain MP, Naomi Long MP, John McDonnell MP, Mohammad Taj TUC president, Weyman Bennett, Sabby Dhalu Unite Against Fascism, Christine Blower NUT general secretary Billy Hayes CWU general secretary, Mark Serwotka PCS general secretary Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite Dr Tommy Tomescu Alliance Against Romanians and Bulgarians Discrimination Co-President Don Flynn Director, Migrants’ Rights Network, Jean Lambert MEP, Sally Hunt UCU general secretary, Chris Keates NASUWT general secretary, Ged Nichols General secretary, Accord, Andy Reid PCS national exec, Matt Wrack General secretary FBU, Mick Whelan Aslef general secretary, Kingsley Abrams Unite executive council, Anton Johnson Unite London & Eastern Region LGBT committee chair, Ian Hodson National president, Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union, Farooq Murad Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain, Zita Holbourne PCS NEC and national co chair Barac UK, Martin Powell-Davies NUT national executive, Aaron Kiely NUS black students officer, Dr Daud Abdullah Spokesperson of British Muslim Initiative (BMI), Shakeel Begg Imam, Lewisham Islamic Centre, Abdullah Faliq Media and external relations secretary, Islamic Forum of Europe, Dr Omar Hamdoon President of Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Mohammed Kozbar Chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque (FPM), Canon Barry Naylor, Balwinder Rana Sikhs Against the EDL, Dr Francisco Dominguez Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies (Middlesex University), Marisol Guzman Women and Family Commission Ecuadorian Movement in the UK, Hackney Refugee Forum, Sarah Isal Chair, European Network Against Racism, Dr Jennifer Langer Director, Exiled Writers Ink, Yvonne MacNamara The Travellers Movement, Juan C Piedra Ecuadorian Movement in UK, Phien O’Reachtigan Pavee Advise Assist Direct, Veerendra Rishi Indian Institue of Romani Studies, Dr Rhetta Moran Matron, RAPAR, Simon Woolley Director, Operation Black Vote, Lindsey German Stop The War Coalition, Paul Mackney Joint chair, Greece Solidarity Campaign, Michaël Privot Director, European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Maurice Wren Refugee Council chief executive, Jon Lansman Editor, Left Futures, Kate Hudson General secretary CND, Bob Archer Redbridge association president, National Union of Teachers, Gerry Gable Editor, Searchlight, Cathy Pound Organiser, Trade Union Friends of Searchlight, Cllr Patrick Vernon South London People’s Assembly, Nick O’Brien We are Norwich, Andrew Burgin Left Unity, Hugh Lanning Unite Against Fascism, Nick Long Lewisham Local Gov Unite branch LE/1183, Raj Mandair National BAME Labour Executive, Kevin Ovenden One Society Many Cultures, Michael Burke Economist, Glyn Robbins Convenor, United East End, Ulrike Schmidt We are Waltham Forest
The bare bones of your front-page story “British nuclear power plant’s ‘Fukushima alert’” (19 March) are that as the result of a routine review of safety, EDF, unprompted and erring on the side of extreme caution, decided that the shingle beach at Dungeness could no longer provide adequate protection against flooding and that they should, to be perfectly safe, shut the reactor down while an additional flood- protection wall was built.
This is the kind of decision that managers of technical systems take every day of the week. No crisis of any kind, no hint of a disaster, but news of this was apparently enough to send your environment editor into hysterics.
Apart from the fact that Dungeness is a nuclear-power plant near the sea, there are no parallels between this and Fukushima, whose location has long been known to be prone to earthquakes and tidal waves.
David H Bebbington, Broadstairs, Kent
Nuclear power is dangerous – quite literally because it is so toxic, and because it distracts attention from the investment we need to be making in harnessing the free energy of the sun, the wind, the waves and the tides.
We need a green-energy revolution in this country – and nuclear should be absolutely no part of it. Since this winter’s extreme weather this country has finally woken up to the dire threat of climate and weather chaos – threats which undermine severely the case for nuclear-power stations, virtually all of which are sited on the coast, because of how hungry they are for cooling water and for water to discharge into.
Nuclear is so last-century – and so pre-floods.
Rupert Read, Green Party, Norwich
The operator of the Dungeness power plant recognised an emergent risk to their facility. They reviewed and assessed that risk and as competent operators decided to shut down the facility until remedial work could be carried out thus minimising the risk to all involved. They have undertaken the work and can now ensure the continued secure energy supply to the UK.
Marc Owen, North Ferriby, East Yorkshire
Britain, after Tony Benn
The passing of Tony Benn highlights, for me, not what might have been but what we now have. A majority of benefit claimants are now in full-time low-paid work; television programmes (Famous, Rich and Hungry) end with appeals for donations to food banks for our British citizens; and taxpayers’ money is poured into enabling ever more house purchases that are driving up prices (and debt) yet again.
Three decades of Thatcherism have delivered a low-wage economy and poverty so widespread that it is now subsidised by income tax to jack up employers’ low-wage jobs and middle-class aspirations.
And they called Tony Benn the most dangerous man in Britain.
Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent
OK Prue Bray (Letters, 18 March). Tony Benn argued passionately, educated and informed us, stood up for and advanced the rights and interests of ordinary working people and the disadvantaged. He entertained and charmed us but sometimes infuriated us as well. He stimulated debate, united and divided, gave us insights into politics and government in his diaries, challenged the cant and arrogance of right-wing and centrist politicians.
He was an honest, caring, humorous and highly intelligent man. Isn’t that enough?
Robert Heale, Bedford
When Tony Benn was Minister of Technology he enthusiastically supported Concorde, built in his constituency of course. At the same time he cancelled the UK government’s financial support for the then infant Airbus project, leaving it to the French and Germans. He didn’t think it would be a commercial success!
Andrew Scholes, Whitwell, Hertfordshire
Do the Scots really want this vote?
Your perceptive editorial “The power of No” (18 March) says “given the public appetite for such a ballot, this newspaper can only support it being held”.
Are you sure that there is a public appetite? Sure most, not all, politicians want a ballot – so do Edinburgh-based journalists and BBC Scotland. But my impression is that the public want to get on with their lives, and don’t fancy having to make a choice between seeming to be patriotic Scots and remaining part of Britain.
There are hundreds of thousands of what Jim Sillars memorably called “80/90-minute Scots” who would roar our heads off at Murrayfield or Hampden Park but have no appetite for being required to make a judgement on the future constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.
Tam Dalyell, Linlithgow, West Lothian
I read parts of the Scottish White Paper on independence in Oban library yesterday, while waiting for the ferry home. It is made up of shoulds, coulds and woulds and SNP manifesto commitments for the 2016 Scottish elections. I don’t understand why anyone takes it seriously. As James Cusick points out (18 March) the time given for the many negotiations that have to take place is ridiculously short.
But once there is a yes vote, there is no reason why Alex Salmond cannot postpone the 2016 elections until the negotiations are complete. Referring to the transition period, the White Paper states that legislation will “provide for continuity of laws: all current laws, whether in currently devolved or reserved areas, will continue in force after independence day, until they are specifically changed by the independent Scottish Parliament”.
David Pollard, Salen, Isle of Mull
New-look pound coin
The choice of design for the new pound coin, which is reminiscent of a threepenny bit, is inspired. The purchasing power of the pound will soon be equivalent to that of the threepenny bit when it was discontinued.
Nigel Scott, London N22
The West precipitated Crimea crisis
Hillary Clinton’s description of the Crimea crisis as being about “our values” versus Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” overlooks the West’s role in precipitating the crisis (report, 19 March). At the end of the Cold War the US assured Russia that German reunification and the Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe would not occasion an advancing US military threat. Yet instead of abolishing Nato as a Cold War relic, the alliance was actually pushed eastwards with Ukrainian membership touted as a goal. This was perceived in Moscow as an act of aggression. The imposition of symbolic sanctions and the knee-jerk support of the politically dubious new Ukrainian government has further escalated tensions.
Winding up Nato would be more useful than winding up Putin.
Dr Nick Megoran,, Lecturer in Political Geography, Newcastle University
Patrick Lavender’s letter (17 March) brilliantly details US hypocrisy when it comes to foreign policy, but it beggars belief that the EU has joined in.
Everyone seems to forget that Ukraine’s legitimate government was overthrown by terrorists. Then Russia, rather than react against this, simply went to protect those who speak Russian and see themselves as Russian. In order to do this properly an election took place which confirms what everyone knows, that Crimea wants to be part of Russia. But when it comes to foreign policy the US does not believe in democracy.
Then everyone goes on about “international law”, something Israel has defied for at least 40 years, yet never faced any sanctions for. One rule for one…
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
Many in the West have difficulty in taking seriously either the US Secretary of State John Kerry or the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Russia has the same problem. Vladimir Putin mocked their “baffling, primitive, and blatant” Crimean posturing saying it was a little late in the day for the West “to take a lead on observing international law”.
It had recognised Kosovo’s secession from Serbia as legitimate arguing that “permission” from the central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence was unnecessary”.
In view of our recent record of invasions and international interference which set ablaze the entire Islamic Crescent, it is difficult to argue that the Russian president is being unfair.
Dr John Cameron, St Andrews
Whatever viewpoint one takes on the current “crisis” in the Crimea, the people voted and declared their preference – and a huge majority voted to cut links to the Ukraine. The referendum might be illegal in the eyes of the likes of Hague, Obama and possibly some of the EU but nonetheless is hugely telling.
Ewa Maydell & Derek Fabian, Milton, Dumbarton
Sir, Instead of HS2 correcting the UK’s economic imbalance (Hugo Rifkind, Mar 18), its speed-first route to Birmingham risks making that city and its airport a real-time part of the London colossus, worsening the North-South divide. If, however, HS2 capacity is equally important, the M1 and M6 corridors await it. HS2 could then improve the East Midlands economy, with a station at East Midlands Airport. And, although its twin destinations of Leeds and Manchester may be over 90 miles north of Birmingham, they are only 40 miles apart. If HS2 began construction by using the M62 corridor to draw these two centres time-closer, it would from the start shrink two of the UK’s economic divides.
Sir, Hugo Rifkind suggests building HS2 regardless, so we can have a “bloody great super-fast railway”.
Fine, but who is going to use it, when recent statistics show all types of long-distance business travel reducing, for obvious reasons.
J. J. Cameron
South Heath, Bucks
Sir, The decision (“HS2 link to the Tunnel abandoned’, Mar 18) to scrap the short interconnection between HS2 and HS1 is a third shot in the foot for this project. The other two potentially fatal injuries were ruling out the proposed Euston Cross station under Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross, and routing HS2 into a terminal station in Birmingham rather than connecting with the rest of the network at a long overdue expansion of the appallingly cramped Birmingham New Street. Any single bullet might not have been fatal to the success of the project. Three supposedly money-saving decisions may well be.
We seem to have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the Victorians, who built main lines into dead-end London termini, requiring all passengers to change stations for onward travel. Only now, 150 years later, have we rectified this thinking with Thameslink and Crossrail.
Without the HS1/HS2 link enabling direct trains to Europe from the North, HS2 loses most of its potential to compete with air to European destinations.
Sir, I welcome the letter (Mar 17) calling for “a comprehensive review of UK transport priorities, and where, if at all, HS2 fits with this”. It reminded me that we used to handle such “big topics” as follows: wide-ranging Green Paper, then reasoned public discussion, then a White Paper, then parliamentary scrutiny and debate, then decision.
Sir, London and the South-East are economically dominant because they are closer to Europe than the peripheral UK which suffers from what geographers call “the friction of distance”. Friction can sometimes be remedied by lubrication which is the anticipated role of HS2 in bringing the Midland and North closer to London. The reality is that there are geographical limits beyond which HS2 cannot succeed or justify its cost, so it may be wiser to invest in tourism, recreational and retirement opportunities in our beautiful peripheral regions than attempting to turn Britain into a “bloody great super-fast railway” system.
It is high time for a Royal Commission to start the process of restoring public trust in the police services
Sir, Your report “Manchester police to face triple corruption inquiry” (Mar 18) made interesting reading the day after Dame Anne Owers, chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, confessed to the BBC’s Newsnight programme that she lacks the resources to properly investigate the cases referred to the commission.
Her admission poses serious questions over the IPCC’s ability to tackle the current scandals that have triggered a crisis in public trust in the police, including the Manchester triple investigation of your headline. Coincidentally, we now learn that a lorryload of documents relating to a Met police corruption investigation (which impacted on the Stephen Lawrence case among others) was suspiciously shredded in 1983.
Significantly, these revelations coincide with the report from the respected World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers warning of the dangers to press freedom posed by politicians’ royal charter proposals and the impact of the Leveson Inquiry (“Global news body backs UK papers’ fight for freedom”, Mar 18).
Lest we forget, some revelations about police corruption owe much to the determination of investigative journalists, aided by police whistleblowers, serving or retired. That, in itself, flags up the risks posed by aspects of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations and the subsequent enthusiasm with which too many police chiefs have ordered draconian crackdowns on police/press contacts.
Surely the time is overdue for a new Royal Commission on policing in the UK generally. It would serve the public interest well in these critical times for trust in the police, and it would also be in the best interests of the great majority of honest, dedicated police officers.
(former editor, Sunday Mirror)
Sir, I applaud Anne-Marie Cockburn for her mission to challenge traditional drug education for our young people following the tragic death of her daughter, Martha, from ecstasy (Mar 15). Drugs are a part of youth culture and, as such, our youngsters should be told detailed and useful facts about drugs so they can make informed choices. Like Anne-Marie I think drugs should be legalised so quality and quantity control can be made just as with the drug alcohol, but until that time our young people deserve to be advised about the effects of different drugs, as I have done with my three offspring. The “just say no” approach is outdated and useless and just plays into the hands of teenage rebellion.
Sir, I was dismayed to see “Mother’s Day Gift Guide” this morning (Mar 19). Mothering Sunday suggests loving, caring warmth, whereas Mother’s Day reeks of commercialism. Children used to pick wild flowers for their mothers — “Those who go a-mothering find violets in the lane” — and painstakingly make cards.
North Chailey, E Sussex
Sir, Forget caffeine (Times2, Mar 18) and start concentrating on the serious stuff, alcohol. If the amount of time and energy spent on warnings about relatively innocuous substances which, like bacon and butter, often prove less harmful than we had been led to believe, was spent on combating the ills of alcohol abuse, the atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights in towns and cities all over this country would become much pleasanter, the police could be deployed to fight crime and the A&E departments of hospitals could concentrate on the genuinely ill.
SIR – I counted the number of hugs in Sunday night’s episode of The Voice. During the 75-minute programme, I recorded 105 hugs, or 1.4 hugs per minute. However, as an accurate count was difficult to achieve during scenes of mass-hugging, it is possible that some hugs may have been missed. If my television proves to have a slow-motion function, I will redo this part of the research retrospectively.
The subsequent programme, Mr Selfridge, was also included in my study. It has a running time of 60 minutes, including commercial breaks. While watching, I recorded two hugs, both of which took place in emotional scenes depicting the reuniting of families. There were no hugs during the breaks.
Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire
SIR – The media describes the Euro-sceptic viewpoint inside the Conservative Party as a minority. But how do we know that? Ninety-five Tory MPs have declared their hand by asking for a more urgent referendum. That leaves about 210. Half of these are the payroll vote, bound never to disagree publicly with the party line on pain of dismissal; another 105 have chosen to remain mute. Some of these may be EU enthusiasts, others simply hoping for preferment. But what do they really think?
It should not be beyond the wit of the 1922 Committee to organise a simple secret ballot of the 210. A single question, two alternate boxes for a cross in either, an otherwise plain no-name ballot form and a ballot box in a prominent place. It could be that, with guaranteed confidentiality, over 60 would admit to Euro-scepticism. That would make them, with the 95, a majority.
In a democracy is it not the wishes of the majority that are supposed to prevail? In the referendum of 1975, voters supported staying in the European Economic Community, and for the next 17 years, until Maastricht, the dissenters accepted the result. That is the British way of doing things. Stopping people having a vote, and calling them troublemakers is not our way.
Child care bias
SIR – “Working parents to get £2,000 handout” looks very impressive. However, parents who stay at home to care for their children are just as much working parents and deserve equal consideration.
SIR – As with all special interest tax reliefs, the introduction of this one will have the long-term effect of increasing the average cost of child care, as providers raise their fees until they reach the full charge that the market will bear.
It would be so much better to reduce the overall rates of income tax instead.
SIR – We have a large old rhododendron bush in our garden, which I think is a rhododendron ponticum. It has been there for at least 50 years.
The bush does not discourage wildlife: ivy, bramble and holly grow profusely underneath it, and it is used as a shelter for many small birds. Dunnocks, robins and tits can be seen regularly in the bush, and it once housed a blackbirds’ nest.
SIR – The reason for banning rhododendrons is because they are believed to act as host to the pathogen that causes sudden oak death. Many of the large estates and well-known gardens in Cornwall, including the Lost Gardens of Heligan, have already carried out extensive programmes of uprooting and burning the most commonly seen rhododendron ponticum.
Selby, North Yorkshire
SIR – Forget about sugar; why is flour sold in paper bags?
Something else in a shopping basket can easily pierce the bag, and then you get an explosion of flour. Is this form of packaging to do with moisture retention?
East Peckham, Kent
SIR – Since entering Parliament in 1983, I have had a ringside view of eight chancellors, and I believe that George Osborne already compares favourably to all of them.
He has a strong vision of an enterprise Britain that can compete in a ruthless global race, recognising that every small business and entrepreneur deserves encouragement because out of their ranks will emerge the great companies of tomorrow. Firms will only succeed if they have motivated workforces, so this is why the Chancellor is so keen on raising the basic tax threshold and increasing the minimum wage. This will help to increase productivity and investment.
Today’s Budget is a step forward from what was a ghastly economic inheritance, but it is also another step on the way to Mr Osborne establishing himself as one the great post-war chancellors.
Henry Bellingham MP (Con)
SIR – An impact assessment by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs concluded that people who are dragged into the 40 per cent tax band and see their disposable incomes fall “may choose to work more in order to maintain their post-tax incomes”.
Most employees in the 40 per cent band will find either that their employers can’t offer them more hours, or won’t pay them overtime, even if they do work more.
West Wickham, Kent
SIR – I tasted my first English banana in the Fifties, aged 12, on arrival at a Sussex boarding school from a southern Indian one. In my first letter home, I commented on how “dry and horrible the English bananas were”.
I still do not care for the taste of those on offer here; good mashed banana sandwiches require soft, sweet, ripe fruit.
SIR – When the first consignments of bananas reached our village shop in straw-filled wooden boxes at the end of the Second World War, our concern was not with the quality of the fruit but with the huge tropical spiders that had survived the journey.
The party politics behind garden cities and HS2
SIR – You report that Tories are thought to be reluctant to build a garden city in Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire or Oxfordshire because they fear a backlash from rural voters in safe Conservative seats in those areas.
What a pity that same rationale wasn’t applied when the decision was made to push ahead with HS2.
Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
SIR – We should be developing brownfield sites within walking and cycling distance of London’s business districts. This would also have the advantage of bringing investment, light and life to areas urgently in need of all three.
London needs New York-style, quality high-rise living, not more miserable commuters.
SIR – The idea of garden cities, in its historical sense, may not on its own be able to solve the housing crisis. People are still going to be drawn to the bright lights of the city.
Another solution would be garden suburbs, built on the outskirts of large cities. The garden city principles, including long-term stewardship, together with the delivery of a sustainable and well-designed community, might be captured as much in that format as in a stand-alone new settlement.
SIR – George Osborne’s plan for garden cities sounds so delightful, but I can’t help thinking that with the economic restrictions and limited land available they will end up more city than garden.
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The rump of Ukraine will remain outside Nato and outside the protection of Article Five of the Nato treaty – an attack against one member being an attack against all. Therefore, there will never be a “credible armed deterrent”, as Air Vice Marshal M R Jackson mentions. Russia has had a generation of humiliation as the Warsaw Pact nations deserted to Nato, with the former Soviet Baltic states rubbing more salt into its wounds. Those nations are all protected by their Nato membership. The recovery of Crimea is symbolic not only for Russia but also for Ukraine and the West, dependent as they are on Russian gas.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has achieved his objective, and will now concentrate on wooing Kazakhstan away from the influence of the West.
Lumut, Perak, Malaysia
SIR – Until 1954, Crimea was part of Russia. Not for the first time, its inhabitants have voted to leave Ukraine, recently with 97 per cent in favour of returning to Russia, yet the British Government regards the result as illegal. Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom since 1707, but if 51 per cent of its voters choose to leave the UK in this year’s referendum, Alex Salmond will regard that as a valid result as, of necessity, will the Government.
The situation in Ukraine became predictable once the Ukrainian parliament removed Russian as an official language in February. Bearing in mind that Russian is the first language of more than 14 million inhabitants of Ukraine, that was surely an act of provocation.
R B Tubb
SIR – Regarding the Crimea referendum, Maggie Hughes says: “At least they’ve had an in/out vote” (Letters, March 17). They haven’t. Voters had two options: to “support the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation” or to “support the restoration of the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine”. It was not clear whether the second option referred to the original version of the constitution, which declared Crimea an independent state, or the later amended version which declared Crimea to be an autonomous republic within Ukraine. Retaining the constitutional status quo was not an option.
Balcombe, West Sussex
SIR – Central America and the Caribbean are generally regarded as falling within the sphere of influence of the United States.
The United States put armed forces into around 17 countries in the region during the last century, the most recent being Panama and Grenada. The American attitude to Crimea shows a degree of double standards. Or are they exasperated at losing the use of Sevastopol’s port?
Sir, – Fr Brian Eyre, a Catholic priest who has received a dispensation from celibacy and who has married, yet who still practices ministry, though not in public, makes a case for a married priesthood within the Catholic Church and argues that one reason that this should be allowed is because this church allows clergy which it knows to be gay to minister as priests (“Priesthood and matrimony are not incompatible”, Rite & Reason, March 18th).
“We have some gay priests ministering in dioceses and doing good work, but we can’t have married priests. We can accept one but not the other. Why? The problem is the woman. She has been seen as the temptress, the Eve who brought about the fall of Adam,” he writes.
While not going into the topic of whether the creator actually needs “clergy” in order to commune effectively with creation, there are a few points in Fr Eyre’s article that might still be addressed.
Firstly, it might be noted that while it is true that Rome knows about its gay clergy, it is the case that such clergy are expected to be celibate.
Fr Eyre may know some that are not, but he has not presented priests who are in openly same-sex relationships as part of his case.
He tells us about his wife, the “woman by his side, a companion to walk with him through life”; but if gay clergy had such a companion – walking with them through life – they would soon have their ministry terminated. Celibacy is the issue rather than sexual orientation, I would suggest.
It might also be said that since Fr Eyre has brought up the subjects of “gays” and of “women” in the Catholic church, might he not have said more about both?
How about a case for the “woman by his side”, his wife, having a right to access the same ministry as himself?
How about making a case for the gay clergy he mentions to also be allowed to have a companion by their side – walking with them through life?
It could be argued that it might not be a good thing to have a “married clergy” in the Catholic Church if the ensuing increase in numbers of such clergy were only to see more men promoting a male priesthood and exclusively heterosexual relationships. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I read with interest the article by Fr Brian Eyre. While I agree with his position that the priesthood and matrimony should not be regarded as incompatible, I believe he is not clear on the reasons why the church is opposed to permitting a married clergy. He argues that obligatory celibacy for the priesthood arises out of the church’s attitude towards women. The attitude of church authorities towards women is shameful and a cause of scandal in the modern world. But I believe it is not the core reason the church demands that those aspiring to the priesthood make a vow to live a life of celibacy before considering them for ordination.
But that culture is a dysfunctional one and, ultimately dangerous. It is part of the culture that speaks of “manly”, that admires a male “standing up like a man”, or in the cringe-making lingo of the rugby world, that urges players to “man up”.
Donncha O’Callaghan’s autobiography was published a few years ago and a feature of that were the stories of casual violence that arose on rugby pitches and even on training grounds. Donncha O’Callaghan is someone else I admire and from what I know of him he is a decent, generous person, but again he was offering an insight into the “manliness” of the rugby world.
The image many of us males have of what it means to be a man, is disturbing and it doesn’t much differ from the rugby world’s ideal. One feature it surely does not include is homosexuality – the ideal man, hegemonic man, is certainly heterosexual, perhaps aggressively so. A bit prone to violence or at least “able to look after himself” – ie able to beat the bejasus out of anyone who challenges him. A capacity to drink enormous amounts of pints – sensibly of course – is almost de rigeur. And being a good man with the girls, lots of girls.
The posh private all-male schools do their bit to engender this culture, as does the media and, classically, rugby does it too. Less so the GAA and, I think, soccer.
It isn’t just the social boorishness that is the problem with this, it is the homophobia, the misogyny, or at least the patriarchy that goes with it – the idea that the world is there for the men, the business, political and professional world certainly, although to put a decent gloss on it in modern times we let the women in a bit. But for the most part women are there for decoration, sex and procreation, of course.
And, no, I am not saying Brian O’Driscoll and or Donncha O’Callaghan are representative of this sort of hegemonic masculinity – Brian O’Driscoll seems very different from that and so too I understand from people who know him, is Donncha O’Callaghan. But that the icon of modern rugby should speak of a thrill in legally inflicting pain on someone else, is, well, disturbing.
Sir, – Adrienne Murphy (“Autism – it’s not all about genetics”, Health and Family, March 18th, 2014) argues that autism is not primarily a genetic disease, based on her experiences with her own son. While I sympathise with the desire of parents to find causes to explain their children’s illness, they should be cautious of claims that the condition is caused by fluoride in the water, aluminium toxicity, GMOs, vaccines or any other supposed environmental toxins. There is no good evidence to support these claims, which amount to little more than conspiracy theories.
By contrast, the evidence that autism is primarily due to genetic insults is overwhelming. If one of a pair of identical twins is autistic, the chance that the other one will be too is over 80 per cent, while the rate in fraternal twins is less than 20 per cent. Any environmental exposures should not differ across identical versus fraternal twins – what does differ is the degree of genetic similarity. More generally, if you are related to someone with autism, your risk of autism is vastly increased over the population average (unlike adoptive siblings who are at no increased risk, despite sharing the same environment). We now know that the condition can be caused by mutation of any one of several hundred different genes, many involved in how the brain develops. Around a third of cases can currently be diagnosed with a specific genetic condition and that number is increasing rapidly.
In a subset of cases, these conditions are associated with additional problems, including gastrointestinal symptoms. These can sometimes be ameliorated by dietary interventions, which may well affect behaviour and improve quality of life for those patients. That does not mean that nutritionists can cure autism, any more than homeopaths can. – Yours, etc,
KEVIN MITCHELL, PhD
Trinity College Dublin,
Sir, – Further to John Holden’s article “Imbalance at the top in third level” (Education, March 18th), I write as one of the small handful of women professors at NUI Galway.
Care-giving responsibilities, especially in relation to children, are cited as the main impediment to the aspirations of university women for senior positions. A focus on that significant point highlights the larger elephant in the room. Some male colleagues also choose to spend time with their children instead of writing late into the night to meet project and publication deadlines.
They, like their female colleagues who go home to their children, or those who devote their lives beyond the campus to a sick parent, partner or sibling, or to spending quality time with loved ones after work, are less likely to succeed in the game of thrones.
The modern university, driven by a caste of highly stylised, predominantly male managers supported by HR executives, is not sympathetic to the human consequences of policy and strategy for the workplace. A fatal result of this unenlightened management philosophy is inequity for academics who, after satisfactorily performing their duties, dare to have a private life outside the gates of the university.
The disadvantage is, undoubtedly, compounded for women who, as Prof Kathleen Lynch suggests in the article, are the primary carers, a factor that is not considered by university managers.
However, the underlying problem will not be solved by addressing gender equality alone. The question is, how much is enough?
Humanity and labour law must begin to have their place in university work practices, so that women and men have equality of opportunity to become professors without having to sacrifice all of life for that success. – Yours, etc,
School of Geography
Sir, – I wish to strongly disagree with the politically correct nonsense put out by Vincent Browne (“Rugby culture is boorishly patriarchal”, Opinion and Analysis, March 19th).
Rugby is hard and physical and those who engage in it accept that or do not play it. That is the reality. It is good to see the Irish women’s rugby team do so well internationally and may they continue to prosper. They are quite prepared to engage in rough physical play, showing bravery, courage and determination and no-one criticises them! – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
A chara, – Vincent Browne approaches the topic of physically aggressive sports such as rugby from an entirely negative point of view.
Contrary to Mr Browne’s assertion, it is perfectly possible to enjoy the positive aggression of sports such as rugby and Gaelic football without being a dysfunctional, violence-glorifying misogynist. Indeed, for many sedentary office workers – both male and female – the catharsis of physical exertion is highly conducive to good physical and mental health. There’s nothing like a big “hit” to clear the head and improve the mood!
Indeed, if Mr Browne had taken the time to watch the women’s international which followed Brian O’Driscoll’s last match at the Aviva, he would have seen a formidable team of Irish women crashing into their Italian opponents with great skill and physical fearlessness. Are they, too, propagating the nefarious “culture of rugby” which glorifies the infliction of pain?
Mr Browne might consider receiving a few decent shoulder charges or rugby tackles to clear his mind of this misguided theorising. – Is mise,
Sir, – I was delighted to read that Guinness, Heineken and the Boston Beer Company pulled out of sponsoring the New York St Patrick’s Day parade (“Kenny tries to keep in step despite New York parade row”, Home News, March 18th). It should not, however, have taken an issue of discrimination against gays to prompt this move. Behind the publicised decision of these companies lies a conversation yet to be candidly had about why such drinks companies are sponsoring events intimately associated with Ireland and the Irish people worldwide.
Perhaps parade organisers everywhere can learn from the New York example and refuse to accept sponsorship from drinks companies in the future. – Yours, etc,
ULTAN Ó BROIN,
Sir, – In keeping with the social conscience that both Guinness and Heineken have displayed in regard to sponsoring the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York, I was wondering if they, and the drinks industry, would pick up the tab for the A&E charges and other hospital treatments that their products necessitate each week?
This could dramatically reduce the number of patients on hospital trolleys and relieve taxpayers of the burden of paying for the product liability of the drinks industry on top of having to bail out the banks.
I will be welcoming election candidates who come to my door with some real proposals to address this issue. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The scientific community is celebrating another “discovery ” relating to the origin of the universe (“Signal from ‘dawn of time’ helps explain the birth of the universe”, Home News, March 19th). Of course everything describable can be described and the latest theoretical answer to “how” falls well short of the answer to the more significant question “why”, but everyone is entitled to their moment in the sun.
No wonder the universe is expanding, making room for all that hubris. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Despite the illegitimate nature of the referendum in Crimea, the fact that it was carried out within the space of two weeks must be the cause of some embarrassment to Minurso (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), the UN body charged with organising a referendum on self-determination there. That was back in 1991.
Some 23 later, in the face of ongoing Moroccan obstruction and international indifference, Minurso has still not fulfilled its mandate and a population a quarter the size of Crimea’s is still awaiting a say on its future. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Russian president Vladimir Putin has gauged the weakness of the political establishment in the West almost flawlessly. He considered that mere talk had reached epidemic proportions in western democracies, and the stomach for any kind of military support for their political and commercial colonialism was absent. He knew they would consider first that such support would be just bad for investment.
He then proceeded to give leaders in the West a master class in how to annexe a strategic interest without firing a shot. He not only judged the western political establishment quite accurately, he also judged the level of disenchantment with “democratic capitalism”. The taxpayers of the West are so fed up of supporting political and commercial adventures around the world that there is now little or no prospect that their “leaders” could ever hope to persuade them to support a military adventure based on those leaders’ loss of face. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I agreed with Conor Pope’s five-star review of the Guinness pint bottle of stout (Pricewatch, March 17th) but not about it being hard to find.
I feel he needs to travel to sample the joys of Waterford and south Kilkenny pubs, where the pint bottle of Guinness still holds its traditional prominence.
“A bottle off the shelf – small glass” (½ pint size) is all the barman needs to know to serve one of the finest drinks still available.
Some say the lower the shelf the better the taste – a stone floor is the ideal – and no central heating, of course.
There are tips on how it should be poured – especially when it is “high” or a “bit fresh” – and on how it should be imbibed, but these are for more esoteric musings. Sufficient for now – hold the glass at a 45 degree angle, pour slowly to achieve a finger-width frothy head of an off-amber hue and with a good “cut” in the taste.
Off-amber? It must be time to talk hurling. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Is the current e-cigarette controversy proof that there can, indeed, be smoke without fire? – Yours, etc,
* I applaud the Taoiseach for his unswerving resolve to participate in this year’s New York St Patrick’s Day Parade. However, the decision of organisers to ban gay rights activists from the parade is discriminatory to say the least.
Also in this section
It is disheartening that diverse interpretations of human rights remain very alive today, and that there are people out there who still view this idea as no more than “bawling upon paper”.
St Patrick’s Day does not belong to Ireland only. Its tremendous appeal cuts across cultures and espouses tolerance, emancipation, diversity and symbolism. In essence, it is a colour-blind event where everyone celebrates the life of a man who was taken as a slave, found God and was the driving power which rekindled the innate spirit of leadership, wisdom and spirituality in each of us, irrespective of gender, religion, creed and sexual orientation.
The day itself symbolises the moral appeal of human rights. This symbolic gesture predates the American Declaration of Independence which takes it as granted the idea that everyone is endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; and the pinnacles of the French Revolution which assert that men are born and remain free and equal in rights.
It is therefore disheartening that the abrogation of human rights, the occurrence of famines and poverty, the neglect of the agency of women and the worsening threats to environment have become part of the prevailing rhetoric, or as others put it “rhetorical nonsense”, when the 21st Century was supposed to be about participatory and inclusive governance where everyone should have a voice.
The idea of freedom is in itself too inclusive. No one should harbour any sceptical thought about this. St Patrick’s Day should remain at the vanguard of social change. Let us hope that next year the day will invoke the conspicuous idea that “it is hard to envisage good health and the fulfilment of needs and wants as freedoms without stretching the term until it embraces everything that is of central value to human beings”.
DR MUNJED FARID AL QUTOB
WHAT DO WE STAND FOR?
* I am sure I cannot be the only one to wonder why in today’s diverse Irish society those that represent us cannot make a stand when the modern Ireland is not being fully represented.
If anything, the reaction to the New York St Patrick’s Day parade by a few drinks companies in contrast to our Taoiseach sets a dangerous precedent and shows me that we are more reliant on big business to set our moral compass than those that are chosen to represent our society.
I for one expect more from those that have been elected to our highest office than to act simply as a bean counter selling the Irish brand to the highest bidder. I struggle to understand how it can be forgotten that we are a society, a nation for which people died to establish. We should not be represented as a corporation that can be bought and sold.
I do not believe it is good enough to just pay our debts and move on, this generation has to achieve more for the pain it is suffering. We must build a future for our kids that is more than just bean counting but a society that is predicated on equality, fairness and freedom of speech.
In my view, this is what has been lacking in the vision of what it means to be Irish and we are now in danger of missing an opportunity to define what our society stands for in the 21st Century.
ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
PUTIN THE POLL-TOPPER
Eamon de Valera once famously stated that in order to read the mind of the Irish electorate he had only “to look into his heart”. The old chief often triumphed at the polls but never came remotely close to winning 97pc of the vote.
Clearly Mr Putin has perfected the art of “cardiac self-examination” to a degree Dev could only have dreamed of. But then the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was recently returned with no less than 100pc of the vote.
Where did Putin slip up? Perhaps the 3pc who dissented in Crimea are in reality a “margin of error” and it would be simpler for all to accept this fact and round the figure up to 100pc.
FR IGGY O’DONOVAN
O’CONNELL STREET, LIMERICK
CATHOLIC GENERATION GAP
* At Mass on St Patrick’s Day in our local church, the priest spoke about our Christian heritage. He surprised me by saying the present generation of Irish people was the first in history which has failed to pass on the Catholic faith to our children.
He said that we may have to look to our grandchildren now. I think, unfortunately, that he may be right.
ANTHONY J JORDAN
SANDYMOUNT, DUBLIN 4
* The proposed 1pc insurance levy to cover the cost of flood damage to homes that probably should never have been built in flood-prone areas is a levy too far. We have been forced to bail out banks, builders and irresponsible developers. In the past our governments have forced us, unwillingly, to bail out PMPA Insurance, AIB/ICI insurance, and most people probably don’t realise that we also pay for injuries caused by uninsured drivers.
If this flood insurance levy goes ahead, then building in flood plains will also probably continue. Why not build a house too close to the sea or a river if someone else will pay for any flood damage?
With Ireland’s total indebtedness at over €500bn, the ordinary people of Ireland cannot continue to provide funding through such levies. It’s far too easy for our politicians, who are among the highest paid in the world, to give away our money without our permission.
NEWTOWN, CASTLETROY, LIMERICK
TECHNOLOGY JOB THREAT
* On St Patrick’s Day, Bill Gates warned the world that nobody realises how many jobs will be eliminated by computerisation. At the end of January, the ‘Economist’ magazine warned of a tornado of job elimination in office work and a tsunami of other job losses looming that no government is preparing for.
I have been playing that tune for five years but nobody takes any notice. Perhaps with the endorsement from Bill Gates those who endlessly discuss economics will at last think the subject of job elimination by technology worthy of consideration.
Technology has transformed economic activity in the last two decades or so. The balance of supply and demand has been reversed; supply exceeds demand, rendering economic growth unnecessary and impossible, yet all recovery strategy is based on restoring growth.
It was such a strategy of throwing money at growth that gave rise to unmanageable debt. Growth cannot occur when growth is not needed and overproduction capability ensures growth is no longer needed.
Overproduction capability has been achieved by the elimination of dependence on human labour. To prevent social collapse job numbers must be restored and employment must be generated from less work – but all policies are aimed at having those employed work harder, more efficiently, longer and into old age.
It will not go away, impending unemployment due to work elimination by advancing technology is a reality of the 21st Century and the greatest social problem we face.
TUBBERCURRY, CO SLIGO